Paul Galvin: Step up
Paul Galvin puts his best feet foward with his favourite shoes — all 50 pairs of them
Published 14/05/2011 | 05:00
If shoes say a lot about the man, then I really must be more careful in what I say about them. Being quite an open person, I tend to say what I think, especially on matters as frivolous as fashion.
Despite what Rachel Zoe says upon seeing a pair of Nicholas Kirkwoods ("Ooooh my God I die, do you die?, I die!"), fashion is not a matter of life or death. Unless you're a fox, of course. Or a mink. Born in the late 1980s. Glad those days are gone.
But back to my original point, I began to wonder lately if I live in a land where it's not acceptable for a man to own more than one pair of shoes. Two is an absolute maximum, but the second pair must be black leather Sunday shoes, worn only for Mass, weddings, funerals, confirmations, communions, christenings and county finals.
They should be Dubarrys if possible: safe, understated, unobtrusive.
If there's one thing an Irishman of a certain vintage doesn't want to talk about, it's his shoes. It seems a Paddy owning any more than two pairs of shoes is a patsy. I was asked on a particular forum how many pairs of shoes I owned and I replied 50 or 60. I should have known better than to say something so outlandish in this clannish land of ours.
I do like to think we've moved on in Ireland to a stage where it's okay for men to be interested in fashion, and then have the balls to say so without having his sexuality, sanity or masculinity affected. I mean, we do all wear clothes after all, and shoes. And aren't we the most creative, artistic, free-spirited, carefree, imaginative of people when it comes to the arts, music and writing and performing?
Every so often I'm zapped into remembering that this expressionism doesn't extend itself to fashion if you're a man.
So if shoes, as women say, do say a lot about the man, what does owning 50 pairs say about him? Who really cares? To be honest, I've never sat down and counted how many shoes I have -- I'm guessing. It's not exactly easy to count pairs of shoes that are horsed into a closet. And I don't care enough to find out either. I just kept them as I never wear them for very long before buying new ones.
I mostly wear trainers; lots of Style Nation from River Island, which I love and wear more than most. RI does some great lines in shoes. Crooked Soul is another one of its lines which I used to love.
I've a good few from Shoelab at Topman, four or five pairs of Vans and a few pairs of lace-up Vans. They're great summer shoes. My first pair had a skull motif, and I got them in New York nearly 10 years ago.
High tops, low tops, Adidas originals, three pairs of Paul Smith's Musa from BT's men's shoe bar, which is brilliant, a pair of tan leather Kenneth Coles, a black leather pair by Bertie, a pair from Base London, and a pair of Clarks from when I was in school.
I'm a big fan of Clarks -- they're smart but still casual and have a bit of swagger about them. I had Kickers in college, a pair of Diesel C Project Eagle trainers from BTs, a pair of gold and copper Y-3 high tops by Yohji Yamamoto, also from BTs, brogues, plimsoll brogues, two-tone brogues, formal shoes and Havaianas.
Then there are boots, including a pair of very expensive, sand-coloured leather, eight-hole 'Montgomery' boots from All Saints. I'm not the biggest fan of boots, though I wore Doc Martens all through school.
Last winter I wore a pair of charcoal canvas boots from Topman, but only with my socks up over them. I own a pair of Chelsea boots, but they don't get much wear either.
So, there are a lot of shoes. I don't collect them, I just haven't got around to throwing them out, or giving them to charity. And anyway, they'll always come back into fashion, like Vans. I think I'll start wearing Vans again for a little LA cool this summer.
I love vintage stores for shoes. The high street being what it is makes it hard to find different shoes. My favourites at the moment are two pairs of trainers I got in Harlequin; old-school retro style.
Anyone who's anyone in hip hop is making shoes these days. Kanye West collaborated with Louis Vuitton a few years back to create a range of high tops, which comprised three shoes: 'Jasper', 'Don' and 'Mr Hudson', called after the singer who Kanye worked with. The Jaspers were my favourite. Lots of NBA players wore them, such as LeBron.
Pharrell Williams has his own shoes called Ice Cream, and they're similarly young, fresh and urban. And expensive.
The most interesting venture by far for me was this spring's collaboration between sneaker brand C1RCA Select and Afrika Bambaataa. Bambaataa is a hip-hop pioneer from the Bronx, originator of break-beat, founder of Zulu Nation and godfather to Jay-Z and Biggie Smalls.
Together, they released two Zulu Nation high-top sneakers, the Bambaataa Convert and the 99 Vulcan Mid.
My first pair of sneakers were by New Balance, which my cousin and godmother bought for me. I loved them -- burgundy with a cream sole and Velcro straps. Class. My last pair were navy shell-toe plimsolls with red trim and rubber soles.
I've always paid particular attention to the sole of the shoe -- I don't like black or white soles on trainers; I like rubber soles with that nude/skin colour. You'll find me in lots of neat trainers, slim-wearing ones, with jeans and T-shirts.
Formal shoes are a more tricky affair. I love brogues at the moment and, again, I like a slim, neat, formal shoe with soft leather paired with jeans and a blazer; I can't wear tough leather that you can hear coming around the corner.
I can't wear thick soles either, and I'm not a big fan of new black formal shoes. I prefer a faded black -- worn looking, scruffy almost -- and I wear brown, tan and cream a lot.
Sandals? Never. Scandalous. Leave them to Jesus. Crocs? Please. I'd rather have my feet snapped off by a croc.
It's said you should never judge a book by its cover and you should walk a mile in a man's shoes before you judge him. That way you'll be a mile away from the dude and you'll have his shoes. Bootiful!
As for judgmental people, I've no time for them. They can run along. They can walk or move along. I don't really care how, once they keep going. Go on, shoo.